BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Monday deadline has come and gone for New York state's private colleges to decide if they want to participate in the Enhanced Tuition Awards program.
"We were proud to say we were one of the very first colleges in the whole state to opt out of that program," Daemen College President Gary Olson said.
The counterpart to the free tuition plan for public schools, the ETA offers qualified students up to $6,000 per year in financial aid.
"We opted out because we see this as just a gimmick on the part of the governor and we give very generous financial aid already," Medaille College President Kenneth Macur said.
The eligibility requirements are the same as those of the Excelsior Scholarship program. Among them, students must be state residents and live in New York for the number of years equal to the number they received the scholarship.
"We didn't want to tell our students that they had to stay in the state after they graduated or that they had to have a full load every semester or that they had to maintain a particular grade point average. We thought that this was unreasonable and unfair to the students," Olson said.
Both Medaille and Daemen colleges in Buffalo have chosen to opt out, as has St. Bonaventure University in Olean.
“We applaud the efforts of state legislators to make New York colleges, both public and private, more affordable,” said St. Bonaventure President Dennis DePerro. “But the strings attached to ETA, coupled with the new aid program being rolled out so late in the recruiting cycle, have led us to opt out of the ETA program this year.”
Macur said cost was one factor as the institutions are required to match the state's contribution.
"The governor is basically asking us to sacrifice $100, $200, $300,000 worth of income. Given that private colleges are not-for-profit, we're basically having to go out to donors and say can you help us fund this governor's plan," he said.
Canisius College in Buffalo chose to take on the additional cost, although for the coming year, it will limit the number of students that get the scholarship to 25.
"It helps us to reinforce our commitment to making college and Canisius affordable and also helping our students out to minimize student loan debt," Canisius College Undergraduate Admissions Director Justin Rogers said.
The ETA program was billed as a way for private institutions to continue to compete against public schools offering free tuition. Canisius believes its enrollment has been affected by the Excelsior Scholarship.
"At this point, it has reduced the number of freshman that have committed to Canisius at the same time last year," Rogers said.
The state's financial aid agency has not yet disclosed how many private colleges opted out of the new program, but the president of Daemen believes it's the vast majority.